Pretty teacher Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and husband Charlie (Aaron Paul) are a young married couple who are also alcoholics. When Kate gets sick of waking up in strange places and peeing herself, she decides to quit drinking and get help. But Kate faces an uphill battle as she gets resentment, not support, from her husband and to gain sobriety she may loose everything she holds dear.
What I liked most about this indie drama was that co-writer/ director James Ponsoldt avoids the melodramatics that usually come with films of this nature and guides his cast trough a real life situation and has them play real life people complete with quirks and all. And as for his cast, they all give good down to earth performances, but it is Winstead who owns the movie as the troubled young woman who wants to change the downward spiral of her life. She effectively portrays the frustration of her own behavior and then the hurt and anger when she tries to change her life and doesn’t get the support she needs from those she cares about. She also conveys the mixed emotions of someone seeing their life, and those in their life, differently through now sober eyes. Winstead shows chops that she hasn’t yet had the opportunity to show and she gives a very real and effecting performance. True, I would like to have seen more of the relationship between Kate and her AA sponsor, Jenny (Octavia Spencer) and a subplot involving her vice principal, Dave (Nick Offerman), who has a crush on her and introduces her to his AA group, doesn’t quite click, but this are minor points.
Overall Smashed is a solid and heartfelt drama that doesn’t preach yet, doesn’t make light of it subject matter either and gives a talented young actress a role she can really shine in. Recommended for those who are looking for a drama that’s refreshingly UN-Hollywood and want to see an actress take hold of a good part and show us her stuff. ***1/2